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Proc Biol Sci. 2011 Jan 22;278(1703):281-8. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1414. Epub 2010 Aug 4.

Warming reduces metabolic rate in marine snails: adaptation to fluctuating high temperatures challenges the metabolic theory of ecology.

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  • 1Biology Department, Faculty of Science, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei Darussalam.


The universal temperature-dependence model (UTD) of the metabolic theory of ecology (MTE) proposes that temperature controls mass-scaled, whole-animal resting metabolic rate according to the first principles of physics (Boltzmann kinetics). Controversy surrounds the model's implication of a mechanistic basis for metabolism that excludes the effects of adaptive regulation, and it is unclear how this would apply to organisms that live in fringe environments and typically show considerable metabolic adaptation. We explored thermal scaling of metabolism in a rocky-shore eulittoral-fringe snail (Echinolittorina malaccana) that experiences constrained energy gain and fluctuating high temperatures (between 25°C and approximately 50°C) during prolonged emersion (weeks). In contrast to the prediction of the UTD model, metabolic rate was often negatively related to temperature over a benign range (30-40°C), the relationship depending on (i) the temperature range, (ii) the degree of metabolic depression (related to the quiescent period), and (iii) whether snails were isolated within their shells. Apparent activation energies (E) varied between 0.05 and -0.43 eV, deviating excessively from the UTD's predicted range of between 0.6 and 0.7 eV. The lowering of metabolism when heated should improve energy conservation in a high-temperature environment and challenges both the theory's generality and its mechanistic basis.

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